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Villella To Step Down from MCB


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#46 Birdsall

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 07:31 PM

Just food for thought. The New Yorkers I have met and spoken to during MCB performances at the Kravis Center looked about my age or a little older (40ish....they may have been 50). I just turned 45 yesterday, by the way!

I think South Florida has always had snowbirds and always will. Even though the vast majority of snowbirds are older, some are not. I think younger people from the Northeast are moving to Florida too, because it is no longer considered an old people's place to move. At least Florida seems much different than it used to when I was a child (it used to seem 90% retirees, now it seems totally mixed in age). It remains populated mostly by people originally from the Northeast in all age groups. The Hispanic population has grown and added much to South Florida, but my parents' area is still predominantly populated by Northeastern people. So I can only speak for the Kravis performances. They are filled with mostly Northeastern people, I suspect.

#47 Helene

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 10:47 PM

- I don't see the Balanchine Trust issue to be an issue. Look at the many companies of arguably lesser rank currently performing Balanchine ballets. Typically, the Trust will assign a repetiteur to stage the ballet (and usually that's NOT Villella), and with the high quality of dancer at Miami, I imagine that no matter who is running the show, Balanchine is going to be one of the company's strengths for years to come.

Not necessarily: there have been prominent examples of Artistic Directors who change the direction of companies despite the popularity and/or quality of what they're getting rid of. The Pacific Northwest Ballet board was looking for continuity; not every board or artistic administration is interested in the same thing. Nacho Duato was able to dump the entire classical repertory and the ballet dancers from what was the Spanish national ballet and replaced it with his own contemporary dance. The was a big change of direction in Houston post Ben Stevenson. I'm not sure why there is the work "ballet" in the name "Ballet BC" post-Alleyne. There was a major artistic shift in Oregon Ballet Theatre after James Canfield, and several shifts at San Francisco Ballet.

I'm not sure, by the way, that I would give Villella all the credit for bringing in those "originators" to stage the Balanchine works; it's just as likely that the Balanchine Trust is responsible for that.

Perhaps, but some of those originators are not the standard stagers of the ballets. For example input from Violette Verdy and Suzanne Farrell for "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" is quite special.

- The well-received series of performances over the summer in Paris did not come without great expense. You don't simply pick up your company and take it on the road for a month in an expensive European capital for free. I've not seen any figures on whether the company made or lost money on those shows. So the unanswered question there is whether this has contributed to whatever financial difficulties the company may now be facing.

Presumably, this was a board-approved trip and a board-approved expense.

According to the 2009 MCB form 990 (publicly available for free at Guidestar.org) she was paid for her services (the 990 lists the amount, but I know some people are not comfortable with salaries being posted so I'll refrain from doing so).

Whose comfort are you protecting? Ballet Alert! policy is that public information is valid for posting here, and while some members might feel uncomfortable, there is no reason not to post the info. If it's the person being paid, it seems odd that he or she would be uncomfortable with public information being posted; someone who is had the choice of not taking a job in which his or her salary is on the public record.

That doesn't mean that any member is required to post it, but a clarification of policy.

- Let's also not forget that Villella is unusually well paid for someone in his position. My point is that a new AD would probably cost the company less. Depending on what that person brings to the table in terms of idea, continuity, management skills, and fund raising ability, the net benefit could be quite positive.

Someone with the longevity and accomplishments of Villella likely would make more than a new person brought in, although that's not always the case. Getting the younger person cheaper is a standard business strategy. Sometimes it works, and sometimes when you pay peanuts you get monkeys.

#48 aurora

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 01:58 AM

I'm not sure, by the way, that I would give Villella all the credit for bringing in those "originators" to stage the Balanchine works; it's just as likely that the Balanchine Trust is responsible for that.

Perhaps, but some of those originators are not the standard stagers of the ballets. For example input from Violette Verdy and Suzanne Farrell for "Emeralds" and "Diamonds" is quite special.

Its been my understanding from things posted on here (i think!), that Villella has been very clear on wanting to bring in those originators of the roles. That this was something that he saw as his part of his mission to do the ballets to the best of the company's abilities. Maybe someone remembers better? I do not think the Balanchine trust is responsible.
.

- Let's also not forget that Villella is unusually well paid for someone in his position. My point is that a new AD would probably cost the company less. Depending on what that person brings to the table in terms of idea, continuity, management skills, and fund raising ability, the net benefit could be quite positive.

Someone with the longevity and accomplishments of Villella likely would make more than a new person brought in, although that's not always the case. Getting the younger person cheaper is a standard business strategy. Sometimes it works, and sometimes when you pay peanuts you get monkeys.


Posted Image to the peanuts comment!

[edit: the rest of this is directed at checkwriter's comments, not Helene's!]
Quite frankly I don't think it was "proved" that he was particularly well paid. The percentage of the total expendatures of the company is not really the pertinent factor I dont think. As you pointed out, he makes half of what Peter Martins does. And I think it would be impolitic to ask whether one thinks Martins is working twice as hard or doing twice as good a job, or is twice as valuable to the company. Perhaps the company has considerably lower expenses because they don't commission a lot of schlock every year that one sees for maybe one subsequent season and then, no more Posted Image .

Ok, that is neither here nor there, but as a top AD of one of the most well regarded companies in the US, I don't think you made the case that he was "unusually" well paid. And really if they want to maintain their status as a top ranked company, they are going to have to get someone else with some prestige (like PNB did), and it is unlikely that person will come cheap either.

#49 Birdsall

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 05:23 AM

If Villella's name brings in donations and interest in the company (I don't know if it does but I suspect it does) his salary might seem reasonable, if, for instance, a "nobody" in the dance world who simply has a business degree takes his place and makes much less but also causes donors to walk away......these are just things I hope the board has considered....

#50 puppytreats

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 07:29 AM

The PNB book by Manes posits that Martins's compensation may include royalties from his choreography, not just his salary.

#51 Helene

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 08:04 AM

It's not so much that he was well-paid; I thought checkwriter's point was that it was a larger expense for a company with a smaller budget, which means less money for everything else.


A lot of company costs are locked in by contract and can only be modified by concessions, such as the salary freeze/reductions at PNB, forced unpaid leave, etc. Costs for materials have gone up substantially as well: Speight Jenkins at Seattle Opera has cited the increasing cost of plywood as having a large budget impact.

#52 checkwriter

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 08:49 AM

Okay, I went back to the form 990s. These are very interesting documents, and I recommend them to anyone who is interested in learning more about the nitty-gritty of running a not-for-profit company. First, a comparison of AD compensation, ranked by % of what the AD earns as compared to the company's expenses (the forms don't reflect what the companies' budgets were, but do show revenues and expenses; I elected to use what was spent as a uniform base measure). I've included the salaries. To try to compare apples to apples as much as possible, I've used the returns filed for 2009; keep in mind that the companies' fiscal years may not be the same as calendar year (MCB's, for example, begins on May 1 and ends on April 30, roughly paralleling its season).

Here is what I learned (I can’t figure out how to insert a table). The following is the company; expenditures; AD salary as a percentage of expenditures; and AD salary:

MCB / $11,864,700 / 2.73 / $321k
Joffrey / $12,940,715 / 1.74 / $225k
SFB / $41,581,034 / 1.56 / $649k
PNB / $20,247,642 / 1.32 / $267k
Boston / $26,670,953 / 1.3 / $347k
Houston / $18,914,204 / 1.18 / $224k
NYCB / $61,429,513 / 1.15 / $705k
ABT / $36,025,653 / 0.79 / $283k

As for Linda Villella - she earned $62,283. In addition, Crista Villella earned $43,559 as ballet mistress.

Some other interesting points. The company had a 1.7 million deficit (expenses over revenues) in each of years 2007 and 2008. Perhaps in response to that, Villella reduced his salary from $350k to $321k. Of course during the 2008 fiscal year he also fired a number of dancers.

The company paid Twila Tharp and Elvis Costello each $90,000 during fy 2007 for "Nightspot."

I'm not sure the company's money problems are over. According to this article in the Huffington Post, the currently-stalled reality series "En Pointe" highlights the company's money issues - even after the Paris tour. What's also rather disturbing is this quote from a dancer: "'Have you seen Black Swan? That happens all the time. It really does,' referring to the violent psychosis of the young rising star played by Natalie Portman." I hope that is just one dancer's opinion and not a reflection of the atmosphere that prevails at the company.

Also, for what it's worth, the ABT form 990s were particularly interesting; for 2010, Ratmasnky was paid almost as much as McKenzie.

#53 California

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 10:14 AM

Fascinating information, Checkwriter. Thanks! (And, as you note, this is all public information for non-profits.) I'm surprised that ABT is so low in dollar amount. San Francisco and New York are unusually high-cost cities, so that's perhaps a partial explanation for them.

I learned in reviewing salary data on college presidents (which the Chronicle of Higher Ed regularly publishes) that many total compensation packages include all sorts of extra benefits, like housing, deferred compensation for retirement, etc. They try to break that out so comparisons are more meaningful. I don't know if the ballet companies report as a total compensation package or if we're only seeing the dollar salaries here. I'm also wondering (but please don't feel an obligation to research this!) whether some of these directors are drawing additional salaries for their roles at the affiliated schools, for royalties for ballets they have created or staged, etc. That might account for some of the interesting disparities.

#54 Quiggin

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 11:31 AM

San Francisco is expensive but not that expensive - easier to live here modestly and comfortably than in New York. San Francisco Ballet's AD Helgi Tomasson is paid well because he revitatlized the company - it went through some very bad times - and runs it at a very high level, as Edward Villella does the Miami.

Regarding the Balanchine Trust restagings, that's a sort of a last minute touch up - it would seem that you really need to be rehearsing Balanchine technique in classes all year long. The reconstructions look different at different companies and in different years, depending on how much time the repetiteur would have to spend bringing certain parts up to passing level. What struck me about Miami's reconstructions is how good the corps bring off their parts which are just as complicated as the soloists'.

Balanchine was changing his ballets over the years, so Villella's Balanchine is different than Tomasson's which is different than Maria Calegari's. There really is no all important original point. You do need different companies around the country maintaining strong and different takes on Balanchine - rather than everywhere there being a sort of "best available practices" Balanchine.

#55 dirac

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 11:58 AM

Not necessarily: there have been prominent examples of Artistic Directors who change the direction of companies despite the popularity and/or quality of what they're getting rid of. The Pacific Northwest Ballet board was looking for continuity; not every board or artistic administration is interested in the same thing.


It doesn't look as if this board is looking to make that kind of drastic change, given what we currently know. Things have to get pretty bad before the Balanchine Trust will yank the ballets and I expect the Trust will give the new AD a chance, at least.

#56 aurora

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 12:00 PM

The PNB book by Manes posits that Martins's compensation may include royalties from his choreography, not just his salary.


If thats the case, considering how much higher Martins' salary is than anyone else's, and how, ahem, WONDERFUL he is as a choreographer, maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again, or so they can hire talented choreographers to come in since they make such a point about how critical that is to NYCB's mission.

Posted Image

#57 bart

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 12:00 PM

Thanks, checkwriter, for broadening our discussion. All Board revolts seem to start with finances, so it's good to have our atten drawn back to that. Unfortunately, conflicts over money have a way of spilling over to conflicts over artistic policy (repertoire, coaching, picking a target audience, etc.) The threat of changes in "artistic policy" is what worries me the most about what is going on in Miami right now. It's been known to happen elsewhere.

A couple of points:

The well-received series of performances over the summer in Paris did not come without great expense. You don't simply pick up your company and take it on the road for a month in an expensive European capital for free.

Like you, I don't have the figures, but I know that the producing organization -- Les Etes de la Danse -- picked up much of the tab for this trip. I assume that individual donors were also tapped. (Villella may have alienated some donors, but he has many others who support his projects.)

The week at City Center in 2010 cost $1,000,000 and was paid for by MCB. Without spending for the City Center engagement, and the excitement it brought, would MCB have been invited to perform on Dance in America? To dance at the Chatelet for three weeks? I don't know, but I suspect that it was an investment that paid off.

... for the company to focus sits energies on courting an increasingly elderly group of supporters does not seem to be a strategy that will promote success in the long run. Meanwhile, there is a very large and growing group of full-time residents, many of whom are Hispanic, that the MCB has all but ignored, While the company started and built on support from the north, for it to grow and thrive it may need to look to Florida and South America. presumably if Villella ever intended to do that, he would have started long ago.

A very interesting set up points. It's clear that some people in Miami are thinking along these lines.

I'd like to hear your thoughts on what "looking ato Florida and South America" might involve. Villella's rep (and the company's founding style) is Balanchine with bits of Robbins (men Villella worked with closely during his time on stage). This has expanded in recent years to include Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, and several full-length story ballets. Balanchine training seems to have been crucial to the MCB qualities that audiences and reviewers love: speed, energy, risk, comfort in a variety of musical styles and syncopations. I happen to value this style and this repertoire highly, and hope for a good deal of continuity. Villella does much of his own coaching. The repititeurs he brings to the company are people he actually danced with or those whose work he knows well and respects. This is the kind of day-in-day-out enagement a good AD has to be able to perform. I'd like a replacement who shares Villella's artistic vision -- and who is able to expand on it, just as Villella himself has been doing these last 10 years since I've watched the company. This should be entirely compatible with introducing new repertoire and attracting new audiences to join (not replace) the old one.

As for "looking to Florida and South America," the roster of dancers already reflects this to an amazing degree. 6 of the company's 12 principals were trained in Latin America (Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Brasil). Two others are US-born dancers of Latin extraction, both trained at the MCB School. 2 of 5 Soloists are from Brasil. Some of the most exciting new corps and apprentice dancers are young people trained in Brasil (and Puerto Rico) who seem to have gotten better and better as a result of their exposure to Balanchine training and the achance to perform in Villella's chosen repertoire.

#58 dirac

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 12:14 PM

maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again,


Villella laid off dancers as well, and I understand they got the news in the mail.....

#59 aurora

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 12:51 PM


maybe he should consider donating those proceeds back to the company so they don't have to lay off dancers again,


Villella laid off dancers as well, and I understand they got the news in the mail.....



I remember that, and I found it very distasteful. I recognize that at times, in any company, layoffs may have to happen, but the manner of those seemed especially cold.

I was just making a joking comment that if, in fact, the justification for Martins salary being approximately twice that of any other AD was him choreographing ballets that quite frankly nobody (almost nobody? I'm sure SOMEONE must like them) wants him to choreograph, maybe it would be nice for him to donate some of that back.

The emoticon was supposed to indicate the kidding/irreverent nature of the comment and I apologize if it didn't come across.

#60 kfw

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Posted 13 February 2012 - 01:05 PM

Meanwhile, there is a very large and growing group of full-time residents, many of whom are Hispanic, that the MCB has all but ignored, While the company started and built on support from the north, for it to grow and thrive it may need to look to Florida and South America. presumably if Villella ever intended to do that, he would have started long ago.


Was anyone here watching MCB when Jimmy Gamonet de los Heros was associated with the company? I assume some of his work appealed especially to Hispanics. Did it attract new balletgoers? Did it attract donors? Did either leave when he did?


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